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The Almighty Buck

The Implications Of Knowledge Work 132

dsplat writes: "Business 2.0 has an article titled Mind Over Matter concerning the implications of "knowledge work" and its potential effects on the relationships between corporations, their employees and their customers. In many ways, it reads like a less strident version of the Cluetrain Manifesto. One telling quote is: 'Traditional capital was stuck in a company's bank account or investments. It could not walk away in disgust. Human capital has free will. It can walk out the door; traditional capital cannot.' This article is part of a larger series titled The 10 Driving Principles of the New Economy. "

It may be true that human capital can walk, but nondisclosure agreements, incremental vesting and health benefits -- not to mention car payments, mortgages and diapers -- mean that walking often isn't simple. Smart businesses, ironically, may make themselves attractive to potential employees by ensuring that they're easy to leave, not just to start at. And even though this article is about "knowledge work," it bears repeating that only a small fraction of jobs fit that category.

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The Implications Of Knowledge Work

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    COBRA's a crock of s**t.

    If I were to leave my present job, it would cost me 6x what it costs me now for my family coverage. literally.

    Sure the option's there, but nobody can afford to use it.
  • "How can we educate management about our functions?"

    With communication. If you can properly articulate your function, your plan, and insights that only you have, in words that they can understand - they will accomodate you. They don't need to know every little detail. However, if you present relevant information to them that will allow them to do their job better and the company to work more efficiently, they will be happy to listen. Just remember that they may have insightful information - through their personal experiences and education - for you, as well.

    Now, if they are obsessed with top down dictation, then you have a problem (go somewhere else, unless you like punishment).
  • You could always have a national health service like more civilised parts of the world....you know where medical care is given on the basis of need rather than what type of job you have.

    Sorry. That's a bit harsh but, (like GSM mobile phones), true.
  • I find it odd that Slashdot would disclaim this article saying that "few jobs are knowledge work" today.

    Blue collar work has been on a steady downward decline since the 1960's. A significant portion of work today IS some form of knowledge work.

    Knowledge work is not just "working with computers" - it is an occupation where your education, experience and knowledge are what allow you to do your job.

    E.g.:
    Auto mechanics
    Electricians
    Programmers
    IT workers
    Hardware technicians
    Radiologists
    Accountants
    Clerks
    Managers
    Analysts
    Hairdressers
    Nurses
    Doctors
    Lawyers
    Engineers
    Scientists
    Teachers
    Consultants
    Economists
    Marketing people

    to name a few.

    The bigger and better the knowledge, the more power one has over their employers. With regards to NDAs or NCAs or whatever agreement one may have, I don't really worry much about them. I have the right to reject an overly restrictive contract, and for narrowly-defined NCA's, finding a job at a non-competitor isn't much of a problem.

  • There's a wise saying: "Success means having the humility to work with people that are smarter than you."

    There are smarter people than you out there. Seek them out, and be successful. Bill Gates did.

  • While I appreciate the references to the labor bureau's definition, please understand that my definition wasn't taking into account the statistical meaning of the term. I was drawing my definition of "knowledge work" mainly from Peter Drucker's definition of the term from his books during the 50's and 60's.

  • More like John Naisbitt (Megatrends, Global Paradox).
  • This gives a new meaning "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" Seriously think about it. I work for a company if I leave they will have a lot of problems. Not to say they couldn't get thier jobs done, but will they have a lot of work ahead of them. It is hard for the other guys to figure out the things I do. I feel bad about this but with out the proper training invested in thier people this problem will never be solved. I seen this happen in many different companies. With focus on technology these days it is going to happen time and time agian.


    http://theotherside.com/dvd/ [theotherside.com]
  • >Blue collar work has been on a steady downward >decline since the 1960's. A significant portion >of work today IS some form of knowledge work.

    Yes, but, it's such a huge slice of the employment picture that it can be in decline and still employ a heckuva lot of people. If you add in unskilled workers, you'd see that ``knowledge workers'' are a very thin slice of the total employment pie. It just happens to be a noisy slice, since no one wants to listen to migrant workers and not many cab drivers put up web sites; I can think of one or two that do a good job of that, fwiw.

    Just realize that if you don't own your own business, you're just a prole. Reality checks don't bounce.

    >Knowledge work is not just "working with >computers" - it is an occupation where your >education, experience and knowledge are what >allow you to do your job.

    ``Knowledge worker'' is a bit of jargon used to categorize new job titles. It was popularized by Robert Reich, former Treasury secretary, in his _The Work of Nations_ (iIrc). ``Knowledge'' should be understood as a combination of ``college degree typically required'' and ``not previously classified'', not as what the dictionary says.

    Doctors, lawyers, architects, etc. are *not* knowledge workers, they are traditional jobs that are accounted for under the rubric ``professional''.

    Try the Bureau of Labor Statistics site and Reich's book for a better explanation and more stuff to get mad about. Hope that helps.
    C-SPAN to the rescue? This is Reich on C-SPAN's ``Booknotes'':
    http://www.booknotes.org/transcripts/10189.htm

  • Found a page that explains this concept a lot better: http://online.bcc.ctc.edu/econ/kst/BriefReign/BRwe bversion.htm
  • Uh, get familiar with how IQ is defined; this is left as an exercise. There's a Subgenius saying,``You know how dumb the average guy is? Well half of everybody else is even dumber!''
    Do you mean IQ as measure by the Stanford-Binet test or something else? Because there are different scales, for example, an IQ of 130 might only be 5% of the population on one scale, but 15% on another, I don't remember exactly. Verify at www.mensa.org
    The point I want to make is that a person can be insanely great at one activity and a complete basket case in all other areas of his/her life. Read ``The Man Who Loved Only Numbers'' for the ultimate example.
    As for being a better world for smart people, I doubt it. The present environment is perfect for someone who has a little brains and a lot of aggression, carefully channeled. It also helps if the main motivator in your life is buying lots of crap. Really smart people might be more motivated by investigating ants or something else of no value for HI-Tech. Maybe you can take their picture and use it in ads or something.
    Nah, the whole ``smart'' thing is a marketing ploy. It'll go away after it's lost its use.

    This bit:
    ``It's a better world for smart people, yes. And there isn't going to be a revolution started by the losers, because they really are losers, not merely oppressed. But it has real problems.''
    was the funniest thing I saw today. I know quite a few people with better grades and better test scores than me who have opted for lo-tech or suicide. Try again?

  • Your job security is much better when you're the guy behind the desk who isn't just hammering out the code for some guy's design, but you're actually making the design decisions.

    Imagine what might happen if we all just threatened to leave our employers? I think we'd easily get some pay raises :P

    Imagine what would happen if we were our employers.

  • I appreciate the tone of the conversation. We are all tech workers, or at least fans or fellow geeks. We get glassy eyed and dreamy picturing a utopian world of computers in every home so where can all share knowledge and advancement to the lowest common demoninator.

    However, history shows that this is not going to happen. We are not going to buck the inevitable truth of humanity. If humanity was a triangle the top tip would be the high or "upper-class", a slice below made of the middle or "middle-class", and the majority of the triangle would be the low or "lower-class".

    We are always going to need a large "support" staff. What you and I consider leading edge right now is going to be commonplace in twenty years. Everyone will know how to do it, and the learning curve will continue to rise. There will always be people pushing the edge of possibilites. They are your "knowledge workers".

    The printing press, and the rise of literacy, did not end the endanger any monopoly of the intellictuals. (at least not in any bad way :) ) What it did do is make every worker more efficent, more valuable to their employer. They could be placed in charge of more complicated, and more efficent, machinary. (Granted this was not an overnight event. I might say the transition is still going on...)

    The people who can learn the fastest and implement their ideas are always going to do the best. The technology they perfect is going to allow the sub genius continue to be useful.

    Lets not get too cocky.

    ---

    Save the whale hunters.
  • wow. This is proof the new guy doesn't sleep. Check the time on that post.. maybe I won't go to bed tonight (California time) and see if he goes to bed at all.

    *hmpf* back to studying for my Digital Signal Processing Exam. Yucko. Slashdot is much more interesting.

    Apologies for off-topicness

  • > The company I work for ... likes to think of itself as a leading IT consultancy when in fact it's a dinosaur of dated and inflexible working practices with managers that seem helpless to do anything but wait for the meteorite to hit.

    Gartner Group?

    --
  • What some people call technology inflation (or the instability of proprietary standards) has been studied previously and described as the time it takes for half of what you've learn to become irrelevant. From this point of view, the comparisons between OpenSource and ShrinkWrap becomes rather obvious. If the user population is small and adaptable, then it is OK to have rapid release cycles. However, once a product becomes "mainstream" (e.g. email=sendmail, web=apache) people prefer some stability as it reduces the transitional and training costs. One can compare it with a high frequency wave, expanding and broadening out so that others can ride on the envelop. Trying to force high frequency upgrades and changes at the mature stage translates to chop/friction which merely dissipates energy.

    So where does this lead companies? As ESR pointed out, the erroneous assumption is that software is a service pretending to be a manufacturing industry. This suggests that companies after a while are going to just treat hackers as high-powered consultants (a la surgical team) to come in, identify an information infrastructure problem, and provide a solution. Trying to capture "broad-based knowledge" and hoarding it will be difficult once your employees realise you are depressing their marketability for the next job (inless it is such a specialised high-demand area you can work anywhere).

    Companies have tried before to corner talent, witness certain entertainment megacorps demands to sign away all creative rights for hired animators. It may be highly paid renumeration, but it is still economic slavery in a different form of gilded cage. Perhaps the OpenSource and hacker philosophy is just an unconcious collective movement that realises the inherent dangers of lack of choice which leads to stagnation. There must be some degrees of freedom for knowledge to grow, diversify, cross-pollinate and evolve. Restricting it in a permanent vice may be profitable in the short-term, but the long-run effects may not be that great.

    So what can people do to reduce the inevitable decay of their knowledge? Continuous learning, upgrading of skills, and picking software interfaces with long-run stability, and even then be prepared to abandon whole sectors when new technology comes along (e.g. why have a word processor when voice-transcribers mature?). Above all, keep publishing your ideas so that they can join the richer mix and survive for a little longer. IF knowledge keeps on spreading, then the concept of an information monopoly will be harder to sustain without heavy-handed distortions of governments. Unlike labour (which can be easily substituted), knowledge is either you've mastered it or you haven't and fortunately nobody has come up with a mind-transfer machine as yet. Perhaps companies will then be more careful of nurturing scarce human capital instead of playing the diktator (and if anyone hasn't seen the darwinian thinking of MBAs to maximise external capital growth has got a few surprises ahead of them). And least anyone gets too confident about being irreplaceable talent, you should read up on classics like Daedalus.

    LL
  • I haven't had health insurance for over 2 years now. ONE time I had to go visit a doctor. It cost me $45 for the visit plus $8 for the prescription medication I needed.

    The alternative was to pay $168 a month to keep the health insurace plan I had when I still lived with my parents. At $168 a month, I'd have to be sick all the damn time for it to pay off.

    Some people are sick all the time, but its usually an issue of diet, exercise (or the lack there of), and lifestyle. And besides, insurance is just a gamble. When you get insurance, you're gambling that you're going to need it. Some people see it the other way around, but I happen to be optimistic about these sorts of things. :)

    -Restil
  • Jumping in to reply here, but addressing several messages from this thread. Disclaimer: I carry my insurance licenses but I'm not doing anything with them and this is not insurance advice.

    > I forget what the acronym stands for, but we've
    > got a law, C.O.B.R.A., that allows employees to
    > extend their health benefits, for a year IIRC,
    > at the employers group rate.

    COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (it dealt with more than just insurance), provides that an employer must offer an employee who meets a 'qualifying event' the option to continue on the group plan for a certain amount of time after the 'qualifying event'. That amount of time is either 18 months or 36 months, depending on what said event is. Most common is termination of employment; the COBRA term after that event is 18 months.

    Note that /you/ pay the premiums, and the law allows for the employer to charge up to 102% of the actual premium, to cover administrative overhead. COBRA /is/ very expensive to the employee, because the employee is suddenly paying all costs that previously the employer paid. (Yes, they pay /that/ much for your health insurance.) It has two benefits: no underwriting and no pre-existing condition 'blackout phase'. Your coverage simply continues uninterrupted.

    There are instances where one wants to keep paying COBRA even though one has gotten health insurance at one's new job. For instance, if I quit the job I had tomorrow and got a job somewhere that offered me the same coverage, I would not bother with COBRA. However, if I got a job with insurance that would not cover pre-existing conditions for the first year (which is a much more common clause than complete coverage) it would be necessary for me to continue paying COBRA, because my asthma often requires a trip to the ER.

    'Pre-existing condition', by the way, has a varying definition based on which health insurance carrier one is using and/or which state one resides in. Most common definition is 'a condition for which you have received medical treatment in the past 12 months'. Nearly all individual health policies and some group policies have pre-existing coverage blackout periods. (It's less common in group policies, because a group policy is a wider statistical and actuarial sample.)

    No underwriting also means that they cannot deny you coverage based on your current health. Again, this ties back to the fact that a group policy is drawing from a wider sample, and for every person who is 50+, overweight, cigar-smoking, etc, there's a 20-something who runs 3 miles a day and eats plenty of fiber. This is a plus because if you do decide to go with an individual health policy, it can be tough as hell to find someone who wants to cover you.

    Individual health insurance is not a single type of policy. There are a number of variables that can be factored in -- exclusion periods, deductibles, types of coverage, prescription plans, etc, etc. Any and all of these things may affect the price. Really, the thing to do is to talk to someone who knows what he or she is talking about, to make sure that you're not screwing yourself (and/or your family) over in exchange for a few bucks.
  • It was in tightly-controlled, studio-dominated, early Hollywood when suits _first_ used to say "Here our assets go home at night". It didn't exactly pan out then as a democratizing social force - but we have ended up with a global cult of celebrity and the increasing ability to watch horror movies on computers.

    This is a well-argued and interesting piece but: most of the posts reflect one of the problems in even a "progressive" reaction to the changes it describes. Which is: they talk about only programmers, IT professionals, etc as "knowledge workers".

    Even from the most pragmatic viewpoint (ie what will make companies scads of cash and give them staying power), companies should start - now - to think of EVERYONE who keeps digitally savvy and plays a role in their enterprise as collaborators in "knowledge work".

    I mean the artist/creator/content provider who designs yr company logo, shoots your ad, describes your product, markets you to the world, writes you up in the press and on the Net. Not just the hardware will be involved. People need stuff to sell, that stuff needs to be well-designed and its case persuasively argued. Ditto the case of individual companies.

    As someone already pointed out, clueless companies haven't changed yet (& are unlikely to). Plus it will take a little longer for forces - however strong - to make them do so or to wipe them out.

    So in the meantime: how about that medical coverage? :)
  • Knowlege networking has the same synergistic properties as computer networking. Watch over the next decade as people all around the world become part of an enormous Human Beowulf Cluster. It will be quite interesting.


    The novel Earthweb by Marc Stiegler explores some of the possible ramifications of that idea. Baen Books has a web page [baen.com] for the book containing some sample chapters to whet your appetite. The author also has a page [skyhunter.com] for it with links to information about some of the technologies that he discusses. He is really exploring the possible results of pervasive net access with persistent, verifiable, but anonymous identities.
  • Actually, I heard that he made a bet a long time ago with someone that he could start his own religion. I guess he won the bet. He had been a old school sf writer.
  • While the wealth moves into the hands of the "knowledge workers" the grunt work will in turn get passed on to people not willing to adapt as quickly.
    Who says that the slow-to-adapt will survive even there? Consider the lowly plumber. The one who works the traditional way, showing up to a job, scribbling on paper, going out to the store for parts, coming back... that guy is going to lose his shirt to the one who takes a look at the site over the customer's webcam on the first phone call, picks out a list of parts on his wireless webpad, and has a box containing his order waiting for him when he gets to the parts store. He might not even go inside to pick it up, unless he wants to have a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze. When he gets to the job, he has everything he needs and can be done and on to the next one... or off to fish for the afternoon. Meanwhile, the non-wired plumber is stuck in the rat race, wasting costly fuel and his precious time without doing anything for his margins.

    Knowledge work is going to change everything, even those things we don't think of as knowledge work. It's going to be all over the place.
    --

  • There will be just as many people working in light industry for minimum wages, just as many short order chefs and just as many petrol station cashiers.
    Let's see: the pay-at-the-pump credit card and "speed pass" machines are removing the cashier from many gasoline purchases, and fast-food chains have been looking at automation for some of their cooking processes for years (it's only a matter of time until they deploy something). "Light industry" covers too much ground to appraise in one sentence, but electronic assembly has already been revolutionized by automatic parts insertion, surface mount and wave- and reflow-soldering. Even floors can be swept by robots. I don't think we're going to have too many jobs for the ultra-dumb.

    Which means Aldous Huxley was wrong, I guess. The deltas and epsilons aren't going to have a place in the Brave New World.
    --

  • Knowlege networking has the same synergistic properties as computer networking. Watch over the next decade as people all around the world become part of an enormous Human Beowulf Cluster.
    I think you're describing a rather old phenomenon, namely scientific communities. The entire peer-reviewed, status-based, publication-driven phenomenon of science is just a mechanism for sharing knowledge and giving status based (more or less) on contributions to it.

    The major new element of the Net is that you can find knowledge outside your specialty and the specialties of your peers much more easily. However, some things cannot change. The old limitation of what one human being has time to research and understand is still the bottleneck, and will continue to drive the phenomenon of specialization where lots of people know more and more about less and less.
    --

  • Fortunately, there are two phenomena which will heavily counter this desire to "own" workers:
    1. People being paid fifteen cents an hour are not going to be motivated, and motivation is the greater part of what drives knowledge workers.
    2. The people who have serious earnings potential are unlikely to wind up in prison; they generally have better things to do than robbery and the like, and even the zero-tolerance laws are more likely to cost them their cars than their freedom.
    Yes, there will be a few who actually have the ability to begin with, then "get religion" behind bars and become captive knowledge workes for the duration of their sentences. Just don't expect them to be a big fraction or a competitive threat.
    --
  • Apparently you live in a town where there are loads of plumbers, all competing with one another to serve the customer better. Apparently, in your town, plumbers have to compete all the time against each other, or go out of business.
    I just picked up a rather small telephone book I have lying around. It's under an inch thick. In the yellow pages, there are about 24 column-inches of entries for plumbing contractors, plumbing parts providers, and miscellaneous. This does not include the display ads.

    This is EveryTown.
    --

  • And regarding your "lowly" plumber, chances are he has some kind of desktop or maybe mini-network going in his business and may even keep his inventory in a spreadsheet. However, someone needs to man the "stores" (or warehouses) where the parts he needs are stored. Despite Sony's release of Aibo, we still don't have Rosie the Robot there to hand you your goods.
    Yes, so? Neither did Service Merchandise; what they had was a warehouse where the order ticket was printed out and stuck in a box, somebody went and pulled the items and stuck them in the box, and it went down a conveyor to the pickup point. People did the picking, the computer did the inventory tracking and routing. That's playing to the strength of each.

    The real advantage will come to the plumber when s/he (why be sexist?) can know that the parts for the job are in stock before completing the phone call with the customer. When the customer can look at pictures of, say, new faucets and have one all picked out before the net.plumber gets in the truck, and the net.plumber can go directly to the supply store which has what the customer wants, and have it already waiting when s/he gets there. If the customer wants something that isn't in stock, the net.plumber can have it ordered in 2 minutes; it comes in by FedEx overnight instead of waiting 3 days. The customer is happy, the customer tells friends, neighbors and co-workers, net.plumber is just as busy as s/he wants to be while others wonder why they aren't getting calls.

    My paper and pencil contingency is ALWAYS within reach... ;-)
    So's mine, and I use it a lot. But it doesn't harness the power of being able to get data and contact people quickly and without hassle. This is why we'll move to the electronic systems; they have so much potential for getting rid of useless waiting and pointless phone calls to the wrong people.
    --
  • At the company I work for, we recently fired a guy who knew *nothing*, he was originally hired to be the ISP Admin, and to do some perl programming, it turned out that he knew nothing about administrating an ISP (which is why they hired me) so then they thought they could just toss him into full time perl programming, and it turned out he didn't know much about perl either.

    He was ripping off the company pretty much, they were paying him to learn perl, and to call Cisco on the phone to baby him through configuring a single PtP link. It only took them 9 months to figure this out..

    --
  • Private health care isn't that expensive in the US -- and usually the taxes are lower (depends on the state) so it is a wash if you make enough money to be in a decent tax bracket. And in the IT industry, odds are you make enough money to qualify for that! =)

    A lot of people work on contract and have to provide their own medical -- it's not that big of a deal.
  • He is the keynote at a conference in Winnipeg this year, so we have a bio and stuff on him on the TechQuest Site:

    http://www.tech quest.mb.ca/quest.phtml?area=keynotes&article=taps cott [techquest.mb.ca]


    Regards,
    John.
  • I think those of us in the knowledge/IT industry know a lot of the truths, and non-truths in the article. Open Source usually works due to the sharing of the knowledge, but it's efficient sharing and organization of that knowledge that makes it work well .

    Speaking as a programmer-become-manager, I'm looking to be the manager I always wanted, and not the bozo, clued-out misplaced administrator that most codes learn to hate. So knowing the strengths of the open environment, I pose a question regarding the futurist lean of the article and the EBC idea within.

    When the collaboration is fruitful, and the proceeds are flowing, and one of the "intellectual investors" decides to leave, who now owns the knowledge, and the product? Can one such person pulling out fold the enterprise as the "own" the part of the idea, or is the new economy hinted at truly based on the Open Source basis of "once the knowledge is shared, it is public", or in this case, it is the collective property of the enterprise, much like today's non-disclosure agreements result in?

    Ideas, comments, thoughts?

    BlackStar

    "Imagination is more important than knowlege" -- A. Einstein

  • 'Traditional capital was stuck in a company's bank account or investments. It could not walk away in disgust. Human capital has free will. It can walk out the door; traditional capital cannot.'

    If this is true than I expect trouble ahead.
    As companies learn this they will take steps to protect their assets...many of them will not take an enlightened approach. I expect to see an errosion of 'free will' in the name of a companies right to protect it's capital. Expect to have to fight hard to keep your intelligence your own, more so than in the past.
  • Social Capital (ie influence, power)
    Human Capital (ie people)
    Information Capital (ie knowledge, etc)
    Imaginary Capital (ie stocks, banknotes)
    Real Capital (ie buildings, gold)

  • As long as you've been employeed long enough to get health insurance, you're at very little risk of losing it. I forget what the acronym stands for, but we've got a law, C.O.B.R.A., that allows employees to extend their health benefits, for a year IIRC, at the employers group rate. You have this option regardless of the method by which you've been seperated from your company.

    If you think you could find a new job in a year, you're fine. In the current economy, if you cannot get a new job in a year, you were probably fired for a good reason.
  • Well unfortunately, I think that the manual labor is going to start being pushed off into minorities, immigrants, and 3rd world countries.
    While this is a sort of bad view, it is the truth. While the wealth moves into the hands of the "knowledge workers" the grunt work will in turn get passed on to people not willing to adapt as quickly. I agree completely with your point of view through. The digital ecenomy is creating great wealth for people, but how much of it is just hype? People still need basic needs like transportation, food, housing, unless we automize all of these basic needs then there is still going to be a need for them. That is a basic unalterable human fact.
    I have been troubled recently by the decline of old school bluechip stocks, and the insanse rise of digital stocks, and pointless e-commerce companies. It seems that all you need right now is a neat idea to getting funding for a company, it doesnt even have to be economically feasible. That in it self is disturbing, there has to be a balance,... and there will be. It wont happen by government regulations, thing like this tend to filter out naturally, as people realize that you still need companies to manufacture textiles, and steel shapes. Ayway starting to turn into sort of a rant so I will stop now.
  • Several points.....
    1. How does your direct supervisor justify the cost of employing you, to their boss ?
    2. What structure does your performance review take ? How do they know whether you have, in fact, done a good job ?

    It's up to you to let the rest of the company know how good you are. As someone else said, it's callled communication. And sometimes it involves fitting in, adapting.... If your current employer values diplomas and certificates, do diploma and certificate, industry recognisesd courses.

    In general, make sure that you know what the goals of your boss and your company are,
    then work out what you can do to help them acheive these goals,
    then do it,
    then tell them how you helped them (in terms that they understand).

    It's called communication.

  • IT companies arent where you really see the pain of this. By and large, the IT houses have already been grappling with the skills shortage for some time now and have (at least sort of) caught a clue about how not to treat people.

    But most of my clients are not in traditional IT, and they seem to have a really horrible time retaining people with anything like IT skills. I keep telling them the reason they need to hire externals like myself (for much higher prices) is because they suck at responding to the market and creating the appropriate work environment.

    This said, I wonder sometimes about myself, and how Id survive if the economy ever took a serious downturn. When I was just out of school I worked all kinds of shit jobs-- (early 90s, there wasnt much around) temporary secretary, presentation support, help desk. & I dont think I could survive at that kind of job anymore. Im used to a job where I would be astonished if anyone asked me to be at the job at a certain time if I didnt have a reason or a meeting. Ive been in "get there when I get there" mode for so long, I dont think I could punch the clock. Im also accustomed to working from home whenever I feel like it, or going in the middle of the day for hair or dentist appointments. I take these things, this very flexible lifestyle, for granted. I work very hard, but I start from the assumption that my boss is only interested in where I am and what Im doing in regards to getting the job done.

    Perhaps the article is right and therell be a new generation of kids who will take these things for granted. But I just dont think that my bosses have made these changes because they suddenly have realized that they should trust and empower their workers, I think theyve made these changes because they dont want me to quit. Should the market change again, I think well see a whole other ball game.

  • Leadership is a useful skill, and I agree that you need some technical competence, although that is no reason not to hire a specialist and accept that they know more about a specific area than you.

    Marketing on the other hand is useful. If your product is good you still need it, if only because of all the immoral people who ARE marketing their bad products. Who actually buys your software, and how do they find your company? I couldn't find any of your companies on Yahoo, which is probably where I'd look first if I wanted to buy some cryptograpy software. What good is a superior product if nobody knows it exists?
  • He wrote a lot of it after he died.

    I suppose this means it could be argued that they're different people, but that would be too pedantic an argument even for me.
  • I think you've just killed your business in this discussion!
  • For those who do not know it yet: The world is NOT flat, and you don't fall off if you go beond the US border!

    While it is night at your place I already am working again (The Netherlands)

    Grtz, Jeroen

  • Oops, haven't had enough caffeine yet....
    I forgot the /b :)

    Grtz, Jeroen

  • this is also a reason for knowledge-employess to aviod anything that is propriatary. My impression of the author was that he thought of intellectual property monopolies such as copyrights and patents as the end all do all fo corporate america, and you needed to butter up the workers to make sure that they will help you get there. He is simply wong. Companies like cisco and MS anr not new-economy - new-economy companies are companies that do not rely on copyrights and patents, but rather service and more efficient work for their bottom line.
  • I'm fine with that. It allows the very american voice of Slashdot to be balanced by those of us in other countries (for a change!). be well.

    --
  • Yes, this article is mostly BS. Especially stupid was this statement :

    Traditional capital was stuck in a company's bank account or investments. It could not walk away in disgust. Human capital has free will. It can walk out the door; traditional capital cannot.

    Capital can and does walks away in disgust. Look at what happened in Indonesia/Malasia/Thailand/Korea, etc...Capital fled in a panic, and the economies of those countries were ruined as a result. It is labor that is tied to a particular place. The workers of those countries stayed and suffered while capital escaped. NAFTA and the WTO are all about allowing capital to move around even more freely than they do now.

    Here is a much simpler explanation of the "new economy" : Techies are simply highly skilled workers. Right now those skills are in demand; therefore techies are well paid for their labor. This will not be the case forever. Eventually most technical skills will be commoditized, the Internet investment boom will level off, and pay will drop as it has for other skilled labor in previous technological advancements. There has been no permanent change in the relationship of labor and capital.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is definitely an old guard of managers around who are terrified of losing control over people's lives. I can't see this changing soon enough.

    The company I work for (hence the AC posting) likes to think of itself as a leading IT consultancy when in fact it's a dinosaur of dated and inflexible working practices with managers that seem helpless to do anything but wait for the meteorite to hit. I think if any of them had a new idea they'd die of shock.

    How many old style managers are in the habit of dropping by cluetrain.org?

    So how is the message going to get through to these people? Bear in mind that in some companies resigning is taken as a sign that you couldn't take the pace.
  • Your optimism is unwarrented.

    Perhaps in the short term you will win, but over time even you will get sick, get injured, or have a dependent that will.

    I was hit by a car while crossing the street, in a crosswalk, with the signal. Some idiot decided to turn right on red and was too busy watching the oncoming cars for a gap in the traffic to bother looking in front of his nose to see if there were any pedestrians (this was in Chicago, where there is no shortage of pedestrians).

    I got lucky. I landed on his hood, rather than going down beneath his tires. I got off with just a couple of bruises, but I still needed to go to the hospital, simply to make certain there were no internal injuries.

    Gambling with your life to save a measly $168/month is your decision, but don't be surprised if the majority of the people reading your post consider you to be very penny wise and pound foolish financially, not to mention foolhardy in the extreme for taking such an unwarrented risk with your physical health.
  • if 83% of teenagers think it's "in" to be online, and this puts it on a par with dating and partying, then 17% of teenagers must not think that dating and partying are "in."

    Most of the kids, who think dating and partying are "in", were simply too busy dating and partying to respond to the poll.

    Polls suck. Vote Hemos.

  • According to Teenage Research Unlimited, the percentage of teens who say that it is "in" to be online has jumped from 50 percent in 1994 to 74 percent in 1996 to 83 percent in 1998. It's now on par with dating and partying!
    Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but if 83% of teenagers think it's "in" to be online, and this puts it on a par with dating and partying, then 17% of teenagers must not think that dating and partying are "in."
    17 fucking percent. So one in six teens thought partying and dating were "out".
    What was their response? "Parties are sooooo early 90's man, everyone cool these days is into sitting at home polishing their gun collection."
    Where did they find these kids? I'd expect partying and dating to show up at 99.44%. Did the sample group contain large numbers of amish teens?
    --Shoeboy
  • Tell that to Balzac :)

    Pope
  • In the old economy, workers attempted to achieve fulfillment through leisure. The worker was alienated from the means of production, which was owned and controlled by someone else. In the New Economy, fulfillment can be achieved through work, and the means of production shifts to the brain of the producer.

    Does anyone else see this statement as a bunch of psuedo-Marxist corporate doublethink?

    Now you don't need lesuire for fulfillment, because your job provides that. In other words, you should be glad you have a 60hr work week. It's more fulfilling than spending time with your kids.

    And notice how it claims that workers now have more control over the "means of production", but says nothing about a change in ownership structure? Give people the illusion of control, and they won't demand it for real.

  • I think you're describing a rather old phenomenon, namely scientific communities. The entire peer-reviewed, status-based, publication-driven phenomenon of science is just a mechanism for sharing knowledge and giving status based (more or less) on contributions to it.

    Before the Net, basic research was done in relative isolation until one had verifiable results, then one wrote a paper which was then submitted to a journal. The journal would then take several months while the submission was passed around to its panel members to be vetted. Finally the paper would be printed up in the journal and sent out by snail mail to subscribers. Only then would the knowledge enter the general knowledge base of the research world. The whole life cycle for the generation and re-incorporation of new ideas would take many months, even years.

    With the Internet, ideas are shared daily, even hourly. This greatly accelerates the cycle of knowledge being reincorporated into the knowledge base. The ideas may be not be as well developed as they would be in a formal research paper submission, but since there are usually many other researchers in the world working along the same lines of inquiry, this early sharing of ideas-in-progress means that they can be peer reviewed as the research develops. Thus, erroneous insights can be dismissed much sooner, saving many months of wasted research time, and valuable insights are distributed to other researchers much sooner, enchancing the value of their own efforts.

    I guess I didn't make it clear in my original post: it is not knowledge sharing itself that is new in the Internet. You are right in that it is an old phonemenon. What is different with the Internet is the way knowledge is shared. Ideas, when freed from physical means of transfer, travel much faster. Instead of being peer reviewed by a small group over months, there are now peered reviewed by a large group over days. ("To a large group of programmers, all bugs are shallow.") Also, the linking nature of the Internet fosters a culture where idea sharing becomes a natural course of action.

  • I hear you: Someone said "It's getting better for smart people like us" and you're saying "It sure doesn't feel like it's getting better. We're still being screwed."

    But you're conflating two things. I agree: they're out to get us, even if they don't mean to. But.

    How people treat us -- social status -- is one thing. The affordances of a culture are another. Clearly these two things do not vary completely independently, but they do have some freedom and are distinct.

    Social status is a function of values and emotion and squishy stuff like that. The affordances of a culture have objective bases. For instance, in a culture which relies upon breaking rock for vital goods, he who breaks rocks best has the greatest advantage. As much as that society might like to scorn rock-breakers, they are forced by objective reality to value rock-breakers. Those who cannot break rocks at all are left to scrabble for value.

    Yes, they hate us. But -- and this is what Animats was saying -- we have finally arrived at a day in which we are those rock-breakers, and the rocks which need breaking can only be broken by about 25% of the population (I agree with that statistical guess for my own reasons).

    What he's saying is that the game is increasingly rigged in our favor.

    The social aspects will follow. Human hearts have immense inertia, but they will, in time, change.
    ----------------------------------------------

  • 17 fucking percent. So one in six teens thought partying and dating were "out".
    Hey, when *I* was a teen, I didn't do parties (too young for the nightclubs, non-standard tastes in music, total inability to dance :+) but I *did* date. There was also the "jock" and "prom queen" types that did the party thing continuously - but didn't date as they considered that tying themselves down to one person when they could have a whole crowd of admirers. I doubt you could get teenagers to have a 100% consensus on ANYTHING though, so it is par for the course :+)
    --
  • There's no such thing as enough caffeine.. Must be off to get some more.. thanks Mr. D. Egberts! ;)

    //rdj
  • "Imagine what might happen if we all just threatened to leave our employers? I think we'd easily get some pay raises :P"

    I've actually been at 2 companies (no names to keep my legal butt safe) where that has occurred to one level or another.

    One company actually did go under (and they pretty much did treat their "knowledge workers" pretty poorly) due to the fact that they could not take even the short term effects of the "work slowdown" that some people participated in. This was a small company and was somewhat fragile.

    The second (a much larger company) that had similar demands presented to them. They divided the angry workers by giving some what they wanted (quietly), and giving others just enough to stay then letting them go over time. They did a good job dividing them and sadly several of the workers who were let go had discussed the problem in public in a newspaper story. This had an adverse effect (since you don't see too many "tech strikes") where it did draw a number of other businesses around town's attention. They did eventually find good jobs, but it was quite difficult for them for a short period of time.

    Discussing such imaginary possibilities can have some adverse effects. Regarding the second company I worked for, those who made the demands, and did get what they wanted were turned down for other positions in the company. The unstated reason was that due to their past threats to leave that the company, they were concerned that giving them senior positions would be a waste of $ in the case that they may decided to organize again and leave anyway. As unfortunate as it was to see some of them turned down for those jobs, it was hard to blame the company for being worried they'd do it again.

    In both cases the workers presented they're case very confrontational. They pretty much said exactly what you stated and laid out their demands. You have to be careful about how you present such demands to an employer. I've found that presenting my "wishes" to my boss one on one often is much easier for the company and myself and less confrontational.
    If your the guy your boss needs like you say, you can often do better making those requests on your own rather than with of few of the "dolts" that every office seems to have :-) You don't even have to mention that you're considering leaving, and that seems to increase the "loyalty" feeling that many tech companies really seem desperate for. Being involved in the hiring process in the past, I can tell you that it's a rare jewel that we find someone who's stuck with the same company for a number of years, and I've seen many companies pay tons extra for that.
  • The "Dianetics Scientology guy" wrote lots of science fiction. Your probably thinking of the same person.
  • Fortunately, there are two phenomena which will heavily counter this desire to "own" workers:
    1. People being paid fifteen cents an hour are not going to be motivated, and motivation is the greater part of what drives knowledge workers.
    2. The people who have serious earnings potential are unlikely to wind up in prison; they generally have better things to do than robbery and the like, and even the zero-tolerance laws are more likely to cost them their cars than their freedom.
    Neither of these are those were good points:
    1. People can be highly motivated by threatened loss coupled with biological sustanence.
    2. People who have serious earnings potential are under a much greater risk of tax law imprisonment than are people with low earnings potential.
    You're ignoring the very real trend toward criminalizing more of the population based on legislative bloat. You have to stop thinking in terms of imprisonment per se, when you are talking about the status of being a slave. Think in terms of loss of full citizenship, starting with being criminalized by a statutory corpus no one comprehends. Institutions, like animals under selective pressure, can become enormously creative when there are such huge incentives. Some additional trends that bear mentioning:

    Bankruptcy laws are being reformed to allow people with private debt to be more easily criminalized.

    Use of mind altering drugs by prescription is now skyrocketing. In many schools, it is virtually mandatory for some students and their parents go along. I've personally seen this target the most gifted students who tend to have some behavioral problems for obvious reasons.

    Non-prison sentences involving restrictions on movement via ankle tracers are already making many employees into inmates in their own jobs outside of the prison system.

  • What chains an electronic ankle bracelet to a particular job?

    The same thing that chains an illegal immigrant to a particular job:

    His employer can get him put in jail at the drop of a hat. Remember, you're a criminal. Who's going to believe your word against your employer's?

  • And that has what to do with the electronic ankle bracelet?

    The ankle bracelet allows you to be placed back in the work environment where your "employer" can watch over his investment more directly -- rather than in an expensive prison system. Your communications can be monitored and controlled as well as your movements so the likelihood of you even searching for work without your employer's knowledge is virutally nil. Regulations on a criminal under sentence are even more stringent than a criminal under parole or suspended sentence. If you think this won't be used to maximum economic advantage by employers who have the political savvy to benefit from the criminal justice system, I suggest your act of diagnosing my mental condition could, itself, be as easily characterized as a kind of religious belief in the essential goodness of mankind. This is a religious belief I do not happen to share with you.

  • Now you are postulating a conspiracy between the employer and the criminal "justice" (I use the term loosely) system

    No I'm not, I'm postulating a continuation and expansion of the public-private partnerships that have given rise to businesses like Wakenhut [deja.com]. There is no conspiracy necessary to explain the emergence of such partnerships -- it is a direct result of contractual practices and the associated political incentives for porkbarrel. If you want to claim that everytime a smokefilled room's door closes and political deals are cut that is a "conspiracy", then I suppose you can call me a "conspiracy theorist".

    Your idea that an existing noncriminalized employee would be reduced in status to a criminal so that his existing employer could exploit him is a paper tiger. I am unimpressed that you knocked it down. The classic job of "license plate manufacturing" wasn't supported by such transformations -- the source of workers were criminals and the "business" was the highly politically connected organization known as the government itself. Expand that to public-private partnerships and you can start to get some perspective.

  • Thinking of "Knowledge as asset" got me thinking that there's a new way of looking at open source vs. proprietary software.


    Control over a proprietary platform allows a company to control the value of all knowledge related to this platform. This means it can increase its own internal knowledge value and decrease the value of all other companies knowledge by constantly (and needlessly) modifying the platform. The knowledge of people inside the company, who actually design the modifications, will be more valuable then the knowledge of people outside who have to wait for them to be released, and would not be part of their design.


    Open source, on the other hand, acts as an equalizer. It is difficult for any group to devalue the knowledge of other groups, since all developement is open. If any improvement to the code is made, it is true the developer will have an advantage; but given that even the design process is open, this advantage would be small.


    So there's another incentive for companies to make proprietary software unstable. Besides the usual ones - cheaper and faster development, forcing users to upgrade often - there's a secondary one, devaluating the knowledge of all potentially competing developers.


    Call it "knowledge inflation". The company creates more and more knowledge internally, just like a goverment prints more and more money. In both cases, the effect is similar - devaluating it, in effect imposing a tax on anyone without direct access to the printing press.


    We all know how well Microsoft played this game... And many are worried that Sun will try to do the same with Java. In fact, every company trying to control a public standard is playing this game.


    Sticking with open source is like sticking with a "gold standard" - there's no way someone can devalue it, barring producing a lot more gold - that is, a lot more open source code.


    I wonder how far one can push this analogy. Do competeing platforms behave like different currencies? Can one compute an "interest rate :-)" on knowledge value?

  • The key to COBRA crap is: You have 60 days from when you get the letter to elect coverage. Just FYI. My HR person (at the job I was leaving) told me how to scam this. I had to wait 90 days for health coverage at my new job (don't ask). She said "look, you won't get the letter for like three weeks anyway, then you have 60 days to decide. So if you get REALLY sick, you can elect COBRA coverage and pay the back premiums." I didn't and was about $300 ahead. NOTE IANAL.
    ---
  • (I realize this is slightly off-topic, but what the hey...)

    The comments in the article body (for lack of a better word) mentioned health benefits as a reason for not leaving a company. The lack of universal health care coverage is one of the reasons I'm rather reluctant to get a job in the States. Sure, as long as you're working you're fine, but if you decide to quit, or are laid off, or are fired then you'd best not get sick. It's a rather scary proposition.

    Granted, the diapers, the car payments, and the mortgage are still issues, but you can solve at least one of them by not reproducing, and the other once by cycling :)

    Just my 2 cents.
  • I prefer ...Hacked I-openers capital ...slashdot karma capital ...low ICQ number capital ...and... plenty of Monty Python references
  • He once said "Why write for pennies. If you rally want to get rich, create your own religion"

    I guess he took his own advice.


  • Shaheen writes:
    However, job security is a big thing among young programmers these days. Why pay some guy $70k a year, when we can pay the next college grad $50k for the same thing?

    Some guy is paid $70K for being an experienced knowledge worker. And by that I mean experienced in the way things are done in the industry. They don't teach you that in college.
  • Well unfortunately, I think that the manual labor is going to start being pushed off into minorities, immigrants, and 3rd world countries. While this is a sort of bad view, it is the truth. While the wealth moves into the hands of the "knowledge workers" the grunt work will in turn get passed on to people not willing to adapt as quickly.

    And this was going to be the rest of my point, but it would have made my comment go on a bit too long.

    In the U.S., we have already "exported" alot of our manufacturing overseas - which does offer "help" to those up and coming but then doesn't give those here not interested in "computing" a chance. &nbsp This is part of what some have described as the "global economy", where you have "regions" of the world providing specific services for others. &nbsp Interestingly, in this scheme of things, the U.S. has steadily been identifying itself as the "information capitol of the world", and in fact, I just read an AP article this morning that indicated that the ceiling for the special "High Tech workers" visas (65,000, I believe) for bringing skilled technology foreigners into the U.S. has now been reached, and there is a push to have Congress increase the number.

    Ironically, the U.S. is also considered the "bread basket of the world" as well, due to our amazing range of weather (artic to tropical) and open, flat land that is good for farming and grazing, yet the farms are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    Quite an upheaval for us and scary to imagine what it will be like here in a hundred years...

  • Yes, so? Neither did Service Merchandise; what they had was a warehouse where the order ticket was printed out and stuck in a box, somebody went and pulled the items and stuck them in the box, and it went down a conveyor to the pickup point. People did the picking, the computer did the inventory tracking and routing. That's playing to the strength of each.

    Of course. &nbsp I had no argument about that!

    The real advantage will come to the plumber when s/he (why be sexist?) can know that the parts for the job are in stock before completing the phone call with the customer. When the customer can look at pictures of, say, new faucets and have one all picked out before the net.plumber gets in the truck, and the net.plumber can go directly to the supply store which has what the customer wants, and have it already waiting when s/he gets there.

    But what I'm saying is that we are already there! &nbsp Now... &nbsp Take this to the next, ie., what the article actually purports - I believe the authors indicated that there were something like 88 million "Net Gens" or whatever the heck they called them (kids between the ages of 2 and 22 or something). &nbsp The suggestion was that this group should (nearly all) focus on becoming "knowledge workers". &nbsp And maybe I interpret "knowledge workers" differently than others but to me "become a knowledge worker" means "get a job in the knowledge or information technology profession" or die! &nbsp :-) &nbsp *I* say, "be knowledgeable about information technology and how it should be used, but you shouldn't have to force yourself to BECOME a technology worker if that is not your expertise or desire".

    This is why we'll move to the electronic systems; they have so much potential for getting rid of useless waiting and pointless phone calls to the wrong people.

    But we already HAVE electronics systems! &nbsp It seems that alot of the things being made "electronic" nowadays are a waste in that it often takes double or triple the time to process certain (not all) things electronically whereas a simple phone call would take care of it right away. &nbsp Perhaps that's due to poor design but it is a fact! &nbsp And it's interesting that you mention phone calls and on that note, I will point you to the almost useless voice menus - which are "electronic" by the way, running off some computer system. &nbsp And how many times have any of us pulled our hair out navigating web sites like Compaq's or Microsoft's???? &nbsp Believe me, it's frustrating as hell - again due to poor design. &nbsp And along the line of phones - note that cellular phones have proliferated to almost "Star Trek" proportions! &nbsp I doubt that they'll be going away... hee hee.

  • Knowledge work is going to change everything, even those things we don't think of as knowledge work. It's going to be all over the place.

    I don't think this is an issue. &nbsp Technology is ALREADY "all over the place", in everything we do. &nbsp That's the scary part. &nbsp We have become too dependent on it being there. &nbsp I have users who will literally sit at their desks with their hands folded, proceeding to whine that they "can't do their work" because their PC won't boot or they're getting and "Illegal Operation". &nbsp Yet a typewriter sits 10 feet away or the FAX machine is down the hall or a phone is sitting right there on their desk. &nbsp These are the same people who we had to drag kicking and screaming to use a computer in the first place! &nbsp It's really sad but true.

    And regarding your "lowly" plumber, chances are he has some kind of desktop or maybe mini-network going in his business and may even keep his inventory in a spreadsheet. &nbsp However, someone needs to man the "stores" (or warehouses) where the parts he needs are stored. &nbsp Despite Sony's release of Aibo, we still don't have Rosie the Robot there to hand you your goods. &nbsp We're still very much "people-based" and will be so for some time. &nbsp Sure you have Japanese cars completely built by robots or places like Hershey's Foods, where not a human hand touches the product from start to finish, but these are still the unique exceptions to the rule.

    Information technology is a tool to help us (supposedly) do our jobs more quickly and efficiently. &nbsp It hasn't yet become the be all, end all of our society. &nbsp Manual labor is still required to fix a riser pipe or install a garbage disposal (or even MANUFACTURE the garbage disposal). &nbsp Yes, the blue collar worker who doesn't get with the technology may fall by the wayside in managing his business but let's not forget the "underground economy" where money is exchanged for goods and services - no questions asked and no technology needed... &nbsp And as my mom always said, "pull the power plug and the technology is useless".

    I think us "technology" or "knowledge workers" are the only ones who know how close we really are to being left completely helpless, more so than any user or customer who we may support. &nbsp I'm in no way "downing" technology. &nbsp I think this revolution has brought us gains in this society that are incalculable. &nbsp But I still urge caution and plain old common sense.

    My paper and pencil contingency is ALWAYS within reach... &nbsp ;-)

  • We seem to be living in a culture that rewards switching jobs more highly than staying with the same company. It seems to be much easier to find a higher salary by moving than it is to persuade your employer to pay you close to what you are worth according to the market.

    Employers are reducing or dispensing with a lot of the intangiable rewards in jobs (pensions, insurance, etc.) that encouraged people to stay. This starts a vicious circle where the employee leaves and the cost to the employer of replacing them is at least partially recouped by cutting benefits etc. Some are even moving to using contractors (who have less benefits) for a number of permanent internal positions.

    There is also the issue that employers will not train their staff because they claim they just change jobs. This leads to employers who rather than training internal staff up to required levels simply hire in the required expertise. This penalises employers who do train their people and also further alienates the existing staff.

    This all happens further up the employment tree as well as companies headhunt their required skills. There was however an article somewhere recently that mentioned using headhunters can be a two-edged sword. Once an employee has worked the period necessary to earn the headhunter their fee then the headhunters have been known to start trying to place them all over again.

    The fact that there is a new generation who have never experienced an employment environment where loyalty is adequately rewarded will simply exacerpate the situation.

    In ten years or so there will probably be a very new employement model that is based more upon some kind of short-term contracts and tele-working (probably controlled/arbitrated by internet mechanisms) that will mean a lot of the knowledge style workers are not employees but resources that a company use when they need them (Website anyone?). I expect someone out there can tell me it already exists.
  • by Shaheen ( 313 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @12:03AM (#1191481) Homepage
    Being a "knowledge worker" (I just consider myself a smart individual who doesn't mind being paid for thinking) is really the best part about being a geek.

    I had a real job (ie. not behind a register) while I was in high school - and that was because I knew computers really well (and was a fledgling programmer). I remember at one point, a lot of the people at the company got pink slips, and all interns would have to go. The coolest part was when my manager quickly called up HR and basically said "I NEED HIM, IDIOTS!" (referring to me).

    Wouldn't that just make you feel GOOD? The best thing about being a knowledge worker is that you are needed for more than your typing ability. It is your ability to think analytically about a problem, and come up with a solution faster than the other guy.

    However, job security is a big thing among young programmers these days. Why pay some guy $70k a year, when we can pay the next college grad $50k for the same thing? This is where being a good knowledge worker comes in (and it's why I would suggest to anyone thinking about not going to college to cash in on all the tech stuff now to think twice). Your job security is much better when you're the guy behind the desk who isn't just hammering out the code for some guy's design, but you're actually making the design decisions.

    Being a knowledge worker should make everyone here feel better. And the better you are at thinking, the even better you should feel.

    Imagine what might happen if we all just threatened to leave our employers? I think we'd easily get some pay raises :P
  • by GrenDel Fuego ( 2558 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @01:46AM (#1191482)
    When I was growing up, my family had no medical insurance for quite some time. Eventually my mother recieved a promotion to supervisor at her job, and medical insurance was one of the perks she started recieving.

    Not even a month after the medical insurance started, my sister was brought into the hospital for some tests. Turns out she had Lukemia.

    2 years later she was finally done with the chemo, but still had to do regular (monthly) tests with her doctor.

    Grand total of all of this... Most likely several hundred thousand dollars. We paid probably a couple thousand at the most.

    You're right, medical insurance really is a gamble on if you're going to need it, but the money you're gambling with is nothing compared to what you could have to pay.
  • by Aliera ( 19724 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @04:31AM (#1191483)
    I'm a knowledge worker. I've been playing with computers since I was 10. I'm also 40.

    One of the commoner cliches in articles like this is "Hire the young geeks, they've been using computers all their lives, and they really understand what's going on." Guess what? That's also true of many old geeks. Granted, it used to be a lot harder to get computer access -- which means that anybody who spent time geeking was extremely motivated.

    I don't buy that software is like languages, learning it young changes your brain. I'm the daughter of a computer-science professor, and I was exposed to computers very young. When I went to college, my doors were blown off by some people who'd first encountered computers at college; they did datasuck faster than I did. What matters is speed of knowledge acquisition, not the age at which it was acquired.

    I'm not advocating that young geeks are any less valuable than old geeks; just pointing out that we have different virtues to offer. The old geeks can say "Yes, we tried that back in 1981, and here's what went wrong then"; the young geeks can say "Let's try it this way in 2001, and see if we can do it now."

    And, yes, old dogs can learn new tricks. I do it every day.

  • by Trickster Coyote ( 34740 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @02:24AM (#1191484) Homepage
    "Knowledge sharing is something that will enhance culture. If you know more stuff, you can spread this knowledge, and like a multiplier effect, add knowledge to the knowledge base"

    The Digital Age is not just an age of smart machines but of humans who, through networks, can combine their intelligence, knowledge, and creativity for breakthroughs in the creation of wealth and social development. Just as networking distributes and integrates computer processing - the network becomes the computer - so inter-networking should be able to distribute and integrate human intelligence to achieve a new form of organizational consciousness. The N-Gen may be the first generation to network intellect for problem solving and innovation...

    This is something that I have been anticipating since I saw the Internet first begin to expand beyond the academic world and into the mainstream in the early 1990's. The early Internet created a networking of knowledge among researchers that spurred a rapid increase in the pace of technological development throughout the 70's and 80's and continues today. Now the same knowledge sharing enabled by the Internet has spread to the rest of the world.

    For the kids growing up today, the Internet is not a novelty, it is their environment. Being immersed in this environment, they accept its inherent properties as natural and subconsciously apply them in their view of the rest of the world. Just as a webpage without hyperlinks is only of limited use, so too is unshared knowledge. In the view of the "N-Generation", everything is connected, and it is this interconnectedness that magnifies the power of any given thing.

    This phenomenon of power through knowledge sharing should be quite recognizable to most readers of Slashdot. After all, where would Linux be today if Linus had not shared his ideas with other programmers, and other programmer had not in turn shared their ideas? The entire Open Source movement and its rise to prominence these days is directly attributable to same principle.

    It should not come as any surprise then that knowledge sharing will have the same profound effect in changing the nature of business enterprises. As this new generation matures, you can expect to see the same forces being applied to solving social problems.

    Knowlege networking has the same synergistic properties as computer networking. Watch over the next decade as people all around the world become part of an enormous Human Beowulf Cluster. It will be quite interesting.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @02:44AM (#1191485) Homepage Journal
    Investment in human capital drives the demand for slavery as an institution. Those who have not studied the variety of modes of slavery within societies such as the Roman Empire may have trouble imagining all the creative ways in which slavery can be introduced. For example, by taxing productivity rather than wealth [transarc.com], we have already moved to a kind of slavery in which one's productivity is considered to derive from an asset owned by the government.

    But the Net Generation has something far more ominous to face:

    With the US prison population growing at phenomenal rates and more of the US population incarcerated than any other leading democracy, privatization of incarceration is increasingly attractive both as a cost-containment measure, and as political porkbarrel. With privatization comes the incentive to work the prisoners to pay for the costs of their incarceration. This comes at a time when we see a major shift in emphasis on "knowledge" as the source of productivity. Therefore after we see prisoners working to pay for the costs of their incarceration, we will next see a natural transition to forms of incarceration that may, increasingly, seem less like incarceration and more like slavery.

    This will provide an environment in which employers can make investments in training and then recover those investments.

    What? This is utterly outrageous dystopian fantasy?

    Think again teenage ubergeek. [deja.com]

    There are plenty of incentives to put your sweet young ass permanently in the corrections system. [geocities.com]

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @10:59AM (#1191486) Homepage
    Less than 25% of the population is qualified for a career in knowledge work. We've built, and are extending, a society that disqualifies about 75% of the US population from full participation.

    This is a new thing in history. Since the dawn of civilization, there have been mass jobs, where many people did similar work under close supervision. That's over. Almost any mass job can today be done better by machinery.

    This trend started around 1950, when the first automated auto engine production lines were built. But it was another 25 years before the real squeeze started. In the '70s the auto companies started requiring a high school diploma for new hires. The printing trades (and their unions) were totally destroyed by computer typesetting. Today, manufacturing has only about 16% of the workforce. (Agriculture, over half the workforce a century ago, is below 3%).

    Mass work is almost over. Even blue-collar work isn't mass work ay more. Watch a road crew or a building job. You'll see a large number of people, each doing something different. You might see one or two guys with shovels, but you'll very seldom see five; if the job is too big for a few guys, the heavy equipment moves in. Nobody wants bozos on those jobs, least of all the people working them. They're dangerous; the tools are too powerful.

    This is the real reason we have homelessness. There's no role left for marginal people. The guy who gets drunk every payday and shows up with a hangover every Monday was tolerated in 1960 auto plants. Today, they're canned, and even the union doesn't object much.

    It's a better world for smart people, yes. And there isn't going to be a revolution started by the losers, because they really are losers, not merely oppressed. But it has real problems.

    We're gradually pushing up the minimum IQ needed to make a decent living. In 1950, someone with an 80 IQ but a decent work ethic could have a steady job, own a home, and raise a family. That's harder now. Entry level to the good life today is probably around 110 IQ. Here in Silicon Valley, it's probably around 130. Minimum.

    That's the real problem with an economy based on "knowledge work". It's out of sync with human biology. Either we rework the economy, rework human biology (quite likely to be an option in a few decades) or see a big class divide. Those are the options.

  • by JDax ( 148242 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @03:36AM (#1191487)
    Social Capital (ie influence, power)
    Human Capital (ie people)
    Information Capital (ie knowledge, etc)
    Imaginary Capital (ie stocks, banknotes)
    Real Capital (ie buildings, gold)


    Your last statement, ie., "Real Capital", is what concerns me about this entire article and its thrust.

    For some reason, the authors (and those who have written similar articles and books - and I've read a number of them) tend to create a fictional "[fill in the blank] generation" group, making the assumption that "[fill in the blank] generation" should "all" (in quotes) be expected to perform a certain [fill in the blank] job or forever fail to live comfortably or be a contributing member to society. &nbsp In this case, the over-emphasis (my opinion) on "Knowledge Capital" forgetting that somehow one needs to live and/or work in a house or work in an office (ie., Real Capital - eg., buildings). &nbsp Who, might I ask, will fix the plumbing in these said buildings? &nbsp Who will build more houses (or do we live in tents that we put up ourselves, drinking from the polluted rivers and disposing of our waste out in the streets?). &nbsp Who will string the CAT5 or fiber or manufacture the circuit board for your computer or even build the chair that you sit in?

    It's nice to fantasize about "everyone" becoming a "knowledge worker" but lets get real folks.

    True, the days of "big steel" and the so-called traditional "blue collar" worker are most likely over, at least here in the U.S. &nbsp However there is an infrastructure in place right now that MUST be maintained and the so-called "knowledge workers" wouldn't have a clue how to do it. &nbsp Voc Ed has been lambasted recently but there MUST a be layer of workers with the knowledge and skills in carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, masonary, etc., to maintain one of our primary requirements for survival - the shelter.

    I have purposely left out all the other things we take for granted, like trash haulers, transportation workers, road-builders and such, figuring that those in fantasy-land might project that we "knowledge workers", our infrastructure crumbling around us (eg., no plumbing or electricity), would somehow still get by, sitting out on the street or in our yards staring at our solar-powered palmtops that are spewing our knowledged-based electrons at dying satellites (with broken navigational panels) in a decaying orbit ('cause no one knows how to fix them because remember, we're all "knowledge workers"), our end "products" going nowhere because the endpoint's wireless dish fell off the pole and no one knows how to set it back up again.

    Let us all look at articles such as these as interesting information but information that will generally only apply to maybe 10% - 20% at most, of a given population. &nbsp I have read some variations of this article that were a little more realistic in that the authors projected that you'd have a good chunk of your population working as "knowledge workers" and the others as "service and support workers" for the "knowledge workers". &nbsp Keep this in mind. &nbsp Yes this view is harsh but step outside the idealism of it and think practicality. &nbsp ;-)

  • by Jon Peterson ( 1443 ) <jonNO@SPAMsnowdrift.org> on Monday March 20, 2000 @02:13AM (#1191488) Homepage
    "Imagine the impact of millions of fresh-thinking, energized youth -armed with the most powerful tools ever created-hitting the work force"

    This happens every generation. I don't see what's new.

    However, the perception of human resources as capital assets rather than an expense is very important. Those of us with even a limited remit on the commercial side of business know that expense and capital are two very different things. I know that if I could get management to think of people as a capital resource our engineering team at least would be all the better for it.

    However, the article seems to think that the entire next generation will be these media-savvy uber-workers. They won't. There will be just as many people working in light industry for minimum wages, just as many short order chefs and just as many petrol station cashiers.

    It's only a revolution of the yuppies.
  • by Ummon ( 15714 ) <ummon@where.net> on Monday March 20, 2000 @02:28AM (#1191489)
    The hardest part of my job is trying to explain to management what I do. They all know it has something to do with computers, I'm usually the first person they call when problems occur. But the more arcane bits of my job are inexplicable to most of them. It's like magic. Even my direct supervisor is a little hazy about how I spend most of my day (no slashdot jokes please).

    And from talking with friends and others, it's the same if not worse elsewhere.

    So how can management quantify your value if they don't understand your function? Whose responsiblity is it to understand your function? How can we educate management about our functions?
  • by Jacques Chester ( 151652 ) on Monday March 20, 2000 @12:44AM (#1191490)
    This article was interesting enough. I'm sure it would blow quite a few PHB and biz-book-of-the-month types away.

    But what did the author actually say that matters? Here's my breakdown of the article. Consider it the Cliff's Notes (tm) version:

    • Hackers Kick Butt. Gee, those hacker kids shure are smart. They can use computers, surf the web, and generate sound-bites more or less on demand. I guess that we all know that something approaching a geek renaissance is underway.
    • Treat Your Hackers Nicely. I think this much is given. But then the old "my workers are my capital" is cliched. I think the idea worth handing to your boss is this: Make the place hard to get into (ie: so many people want to join that ...) and easy to leave. Take a page from the Book of Source on this one.
    • The Net Stings. This is already true. 100,000 Slasherati are bad enough. But when the net becomes the forum for liking and hating companies, things speed up. Companies beware: it takes just one indisgression to ruin your image. The net has a long memory for being slighted.

    That's my take on it. Now, if I may add my own observations:

    • Hackers Know Hackers. This was discussed in relation to the "getting an opensource job" story. If you are a suit you will look for suitish qualities: speaking skills, a desire for progression, and so on. But these things are not the traditional purview of Hackers. So bring your alphageek or uberhacker to the interview and get them to vet your applicant. You'll be glad for it later.
    • Kick The Bozos. Look, if you really must fire someone, fire the guy who never pulls his weight. This guy might either be the guy who's really great fun, really funny, but never codes. Or he might be the psycho who never lets anyone touch his code.
    • Know Thy Hackers. Above all, know your hackers. Understand that to their eyes, you will have an alarmingly low Clue Factor Index (CFI). It is your job - repeat - your job to try and lower this CFI by asking genuine, searching questions, after doing some background reading. So who is this RMS guy? What does opensource mean? And so on.

      Some final thoughts: marketing does not equal product. Hackers do not equal time wasted. Managers are not hackers. Garfield is not Odie. And so on.

      Good luck. YMMV, as ever.



    --

We cannot command nature except by obeying her. -- Sir Francis Bacon

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